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Photos: Samuel Corum/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former President Trump and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise are openly supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican conference chair.

The latest: "Liz Cheney is a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership," Trump said in a statement. "Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair. Elise is a tough and smart communicator!"

Why it matters: The public endorsements of Stefanik mark a new escalation in Republicans' internal feud over Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and has continued to criticize the former president.

  • The rift has threatened to derail Republicans' chances of taking back control of the House in the 2022 elections. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — the leader of the largest conservative caucus in the House — suggested to Axios last week that Cheney could be ousted within a month.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was caught on a hot mic on Tuesday saying he's "lost confidence" in Cheney and "has had it with" her behavior.

What they're saying: “House Republicans need to be solely focused on taking back the House in 2022 and fighting against Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair,” Scalise’s spokesperson Lauren Fine said in a statement.

  • Scalise told Axios late last month that the "idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and, frankly, he has a lot to offer still."

The other side: "Liz will have more to say in the coming days. This moment is about much more than a House leadership fight," Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a statement.

Between the lines: While Stefanik rose to prominence in part due to her defense of Trump during his first impeachment, she only voted in line with the former president's positions 77.7% of the time — compared to Cheney's 92.9%, according to FiveThirtyEight.

What to watch: The House GOP conference will meet next Wednesday, May 12, at which point most members expect the process to oust Cheney will begin.

  • It would take up to a two-thirds vote of the 212 caucus members to replace her — a relatively high bar if a secret ballot is held, and one that Cheney cleared in a previous vote to remove her in February.
  • Stefanik, Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) are among the women that House Republicans are considering to replace Cheney, congressional aides tell Axios.

Go deeper

GOP Sen. Joni Ernst defends Liz Cheney, calls for GOP unity

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) defended Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) amid a growing effort to oust her as House Republican conference chair, emphasizing the need to "come together as a party," Politico reports.

Why it matters: Ernst is the only other woman in elected GOP leadership, serving as the vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference.

Liz Cheney refuses to back down on Trump criticism

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican on the House, tweeted Monday that anyone promoting "THE BIG LIE" that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is "turning their back on the rule of law" and "poisoning our democratic system."

Why it matters: Top Republicans are now openly suggesting that Cheney could be removed from her leadership position because of her criticism of Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the GOP. Cheney was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Updated May 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy: House GOP has "no concern" about Cheney's vote to impeach Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed on "Fox & Friends" Tuesday that the push to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from GOP leadership is not related to her vote to impeach former President Trump, but rather her "ability to carry out the message."

Why it matters: Top Republicans have suggested that Cheney could be removed as GOP conference chair within a month, with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), leader of the largest conservative caucus in the House, telling Axios that her continued criticisms of Trump are "an unwelcome distraction."